Thunder Canyon was the first of the impressive Carmarthen canyons to be discovered. It was first descended in 1960 by an SUBW party of Colin Oloman, Gerry O'Byrne and Dick Donaghey, as part of a trip from Mt Charles on the Bell Road to Leura. The discovery gave a major boost to the exploration of sandstone canyons in the Blue Mountains.
Thunder Canyon these days tends to be overshadowed by its tributaries Claustral and Ranon as access is more difficult, and the best parts of the canyon can be visited from the bottom.
The NPWS requests that canyoners use the exit route as described for Claustral Canyon, and not to form new tracks. When returning from the Camels Hump use the old track across the Camels Saddle to the minor saddle, and down into Claustral Brook. The notes below describe this route. The exit is also shown roughly on a map. It is recommended that canyoners have previously entered Claustral via the new route before attempting to use it as an exit for Ranon.
Leave a car at the Claustral car park at MGA583847 just past Mt Bell. Walk (or drive) 2.5km west along Bells Line of Rd to Mt Charles. If you are driving, there is an open area on the right hand side just after the top of the hill to park at. Walk down Lightning Ridge to where it starts to drop steeply. We headed south a little early and ended up doing some hairy scrambling down ledges with a final handline into the creek at MGA584825. A little further east looks like an easy abseil followed by an easy slope into the creek. This may be what Jamieson recommends.
Alternatively, David Noble's guide recommends dropping into the creek further upstream. Given the amount of scrub at the bottom of the ridge, this may be worth investigating.
There is about 300m to the start of the canyon. There are a few options for the abseils. We did 20m from a tree down the falls to the left, and then 8m down the next section. Alternatively you could scramble down to the right and do about 20m from a tree.
There is a very good section of high narrow canyon from here to the Claustral junction, about 300m long.
The creek opens out for about 500m before narrowing again. There are some tricky climb downs in the next section. There are also two longer climb downs of about 5m each, which usually have fixed ropes in place. The first climb down you would be better off abseiling. The second is easier, but is dangerous in high water, and should be abseiled on the right hand side in those conditions. In between the climb downs is the Tunnel Swim, which can sometimes be a wade, but is usually a long cold swim up to 50m through a dark tunnel.
About 50m past the second climb down, Rainbow Ravine is a reasonably obvious sloping waterfall that comes in on your left, as the creek bends right. A further 50m past this there is a final 20m swim to the exit gully. Many parties miss this exit and end up being benighted in the canyon, so be careful.
Scramble up the exit gully for about 20m and then traverse left under the cliff to Rainbow Ravine. Head up Rainbow Ravine. There are a few tricky scrambles, and some wades (for those who carry dry socks or shoes).
Where the gully splits higher up, head to the left. At the top there are two more tricky scrambles, the first up a log. The second can be made easy by stepping to the right and using the side of a good handhold for the left hand. It is possible to avoid the top scrambles by traversing around to the next gully to the right.
From there follow the obvious track up to the Camels Hump. Head down and right to the Camels Saddle, ignoring tracks off to the left, and then up a short way to the next minor saddle at MGA597834. Turn left here, and follow the track steeply downhill until you reach Claustral Brook.
A track can be followed alongside the creek for some way. Continue downstream past the junction with Dismal Dingle. There are a couple of canyon-like sections in here. There are two deep wades or short swims shortly before you reach the exit gully on the right at MGA589837.
Scramble up this gully and try and pick up a track that leads NNW back to the road at the sharp corner at MGA585846. Walk back along the road to your car.
- Difficulty: M
- Abseils: 1-5
- Longest abseil: 20m
- Quality: 8/10
- Time: One day
- Distance: 12km
- Ascent: 510m
- Wetsuits: Recommended
Tom Brennan : email@example.com : updated 2003-01-17